Wide awake now, I felt the crawling sensation return. The rain had turned into a hard downpour and the night sounds had vanished behind the sounds of the harsh rain beating on the roof top and the metal awnings. I could hear the wind whistling through the trees as the clouds moved on their onward journey. A part of my brain went back to the yester years and I wondered if there would be a flood this year. I didn’t know why I was thinking about that now especially when I had this unexplainable situation which was worrying me no end. I suppose the brain has its own way of coping with situations that make the adrenalin flow and the heart beat faster for flight or courage. Either way, there was nowhere to run, or I thought it was best to brave it out whatever the consequences. But there was a sense of trepidation. I thought it would be best to start with the books and with a sense of foreboding I got out of bed and made my way across the bedroom to the corner table where I had placed them.

I looked at them and hesitated. They were very old and I could see that the cover was a little browned and looked the worse for wear. They were three of them, each of the same size but of different thickness. I had not asked for these books yet they had come to me in a strange way and brought by a stranger that seemed unworldly.

The thought took me back to the stranger. Tall thin and lanky, dark, browned by the sun and large bright eyes he could have been not more than twenty seven. It was evident that he was no Indian and had had a slight accent. The few words he had spoken reminded me of my Egyptian students who had similar looks. But this person was different. There was an otherworldly aura about him and the quiet of the dead.

I wondered whether I had inadvertently called for these books as I am wont to do when the urge for knowledge is strong upon me. This had happened to me before, albeit in a much milder form and in a less frightening manner. Had someone or something listened to this call? Was there such a thing and why had the call been answered. Did it portend something for the future….mine or even mankind.

Being of careful disposition and of an analytical bent before taking any action I paused to think while I still stared at the books, as if willing them to tell me their secrets on their own. The thought crossed my mind that although knowledge is a wonderful thing, in the wrong hands misuse of it can lead to catastrophic results.

Humans, it has been my experience can deal with only so much knowledge, anything beyond this realm excites them but renders them incapable of being realistic and runaway emotions not to mention sinful thoughts and impulsive behavior results in destruction and chaos. At least the majority of them are so. I think I was second guessing myself and wondered whether I was the right person for this knowledge.

I extended my hand to lift the first book which was the thickest of the three, when there was a loud bang and the lights went out. I almost jumped out of my skin and took a hurried step backward. In doing so I had stepped on my dog who gave a loud whelp and I almost tripped but was able to steady myself by holding on to the window grill. It was pitch dark and I had to grope my way to the dressing table to light a candle.

Placing the lit candle on the side table I returned to the books which seemed to be glowing a little due to the plastic jacket used as a book cover. I decided to wait it
out till the lights came back on. Taking some solace in the presence of my dog, I slid back under the covers, completely ill at ease. The rain, was now a light drizzle and the furniture made shadows on the walls in the dim candlelight.

As I was staring at the wall, I thought I saw the face again, more a side view , I looked away lest my imagination run riot, and closed my eyes, chanting a prayer to ease my mind. But the foreboding refused to leave me. My dog continued to be interested in watching something beyond the door and I was thankful that I didn’t see what he was looking at….

The busy day and the incident took its toll and I must have dozed off. The warm rays of the morning sun woke me up the next morning and there was a pleasant sensation of having rested when my eyes fell on the books. The previous night’s happening’s came back to me in a rush.

The day with the sun out and the bird sounds and the movement of traffic and the shouts of the humans bring their own courage and forgetting my daily ablutions I thought it best to solve the mystery forthwith.

I went to the table where I had kept the books. Giving little thought to the change in their positions, I saw them spread side by side in order of their thickness. I wondered at that, but was impatient to see what all the books were about.

The thickest had the number 1 written on it. I picked it up. All seemed to be going well so far and my fears dispelled I proceeded to examine the book. The shiny plastic cover was marked and smudged with age. It was no longer transparent and the cover was hard and made of maroon cloth now having a faded look. The other two had a similar look.

There was nothing written on the cover, no embedded title or any other print, so I tentatively opened the book. There was a sudden gust of wind and the sun was covered by dark clouds. I looked out but all seemed fine so I proceeded to open the book. To my surprise there was a beautiful picture on the first page, the paper was old and still retained some of its glossiness. It was a picture of a girl seated on the bank of the river.

The beautiful girl was sitting on the slope and pointing in the direction of the flowing river. There seemed to be something floating in the water. Up ahead were some trees and a beautiful cottage. It looked empty and slightly in ruins. There were just hills and slopes and some woods all around….the girl sat with an outstretched hand with a look on her face that was at once restless and curious. There was a certain helplessness about her a, a quiet desperation of sorts. As if calling for help.

There was something more to that picture, I couldn’t quite place it. It was trying to tell me something. The colors were vibrant and they seem to be telling a story of their own…the colors were the same vibgyor, but yet felt different…to the eye they didn’t seem the same. They seemed more alive and pure and more natural.

I desisted from analyzing further as curiosity for getting to know the subject matter of the book was getting the better of me. I turned again …there was nothing there, just a blank page and so I turned a page again and then again and again…..nothing…just one blank page after another. My first reaction was annoyance fast turning to anger…who would want to play such a prank? I finally reached the end of the book hoping to find something….when inside the back cover I spied a sentence written in violet ink…… ‘Await the written word!’…. I quickly checked the other two books …they had the same picture and the pages that followed were blank too…..this was most confusing and made no sense.
Again I inspected the inside of the back cover… Book 2….it merely said, ‘It’s not yet time!’ and Book 3 said, ‘Time will Tell!’. Curiouser and Curiouser!

What did this mean? Will the writing appear later or will the book take a life of its own or some imaging device …or some projection…..What was it! I had inspected it thoroughly without destroying it…..it gave up nothing….Who could I show them to and what would I ask them to check. Was this some kind of game or was it a test…Hard to tell…..I had to be patient, I must wait and see…hopefully the mystery will unravel itself soon….the books looked harmless enough…although I couldn’t say the same about the visitor….I knew nothing of him and I had the feeling more visits would follow, and then there was the Knock!


                                                                                                    Mamta Apte

                                                                                                   August 6.2017

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